If a child has a toothache or the flu, it's easy for most adults to explain what happens during a trip to the dentist or doctor, but when it comes to mental health, many parents may not know where to begin, or how to calm a child's fears and they may have plenty of fears of their own. One expert is working to destigmatize mental health issues by bringing them front and center.
For nine-year old Kennedy Reese, soccer is a great way to burn off some energy.
"It's not about winning, it's about having fun," says Kennedy.
Tough to tell on the field but Kennedy has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.
She said, "I don't pay attention. I move a lot."
Recently, Vincent Reese, Kennedy's dad, has seen a world of difference in his daughter, but starting from the time she was a toddler, Kennedy had developmental delays.
Vincent said, "She wasn't even articulating simple words like mom, dad, bottle, nothing."
Child psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mini Tandon, DO, is an expert in ADHD and other childhood mental health disorders.
With as many as eight percent of all school-aged kids showing signs of ADHD, Doctor Tandon is working to take the fear and stigma out of mental health checkups. Tandon starts with the office no white coats allowed.
Tandon said, "We want to be able to get inside your thoughts and moods and feelings. By removing the white coat we are distinguishing ourselves and making kids more comfortable."
Doctor Tandon tells parents to explain a mental health visit the same way as they would a pediatrician's checkup for a cold or flu. These visits help you feel better and follow up visits keep you well. But when she was unable to find a book to recommend to her patients she tapped one out herself.
"They have many types of children's books, but i feel like there's a shortage of children's books addressing mental health," she said.
Her book is called Doctor Mini Mental Health Meets Willie Wannaknow. It addresses ADHD and tics. For the Reese family, it was one way of helping Kennedy understand her treatment.
Vincent said, "For some individuals it's just something normal they have to overcome like any other illness."
Doctor Tandon self-published the book and has begun writing another to complete a series focusing on early childhood mental health topics. The book is available at www.drminimentalhealth.com for $17.99.
Allentown, PA 18102